Kaki Warner became a favorite author of mine when I read her first book a number of years go. I’m so happy she’s spending some time with us today – I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know her and be open to trying her books. Even if you’re not an historical western fan, give her books a chance. The romance alone is enough to make you happy, but her characters will totally win you over.
Texas Tall is Kaki’s newest release, on shelves tomorrow, October 4, so she’s celebrating with us today. Ty and Lottie are the typical folks struggling on the early American frontier when fate puts them in each other’s path. They’re young, but they’ve had to grow up fast when life takes a terrible turn. Take an arduous but emotional journey with them as they carve out the life they thought they could never have.
Seeking vengeance for a tragic past, Tyree Benton joined the Rangers and became a different man—but his brutal actions still twist his conscience. Now he’s found a woman he could love, but she deserves more than a man who makes a living getting shot at. If Ty were honorable, he’d leave her alone. But he can’t seem to stay away….
Orphaned at fourteen, Charlotte Weyland has used her talent for numbers to build enough of a fortune to fund Ty’s dream of owning a ranch…if he’s not too stubborn to accept her help. But when Charlotte’s past catches up to her, she finds herself on one side of the law with Ty on the other. To keep their dreams alive, they’ll have to make compromises, but doing so might cost them everything they have…
DUCK CHAT: With nine full-length novels and one novella proudly displayed on your backlist so far, has the writing process and navigating the industry become easier as time’s gone on? What’s the best part of the process for you? And the part you never look forward to?
KAKI WARNER: The publishing industry has definitely changed since my first book came out almost seven years ago. It’s been a boon for readers to have so many excellent authors to choose from—both traditionally published and self-published. As an author contracted to a publishing house (in my case Penguin Random House), I have little say in the cover, title, price of the book, or distribution. Higher pricing can make it more difficult to compete with the vast number of lower priced or free books flooding the market, while often creating the expectation that readers shouldn’t have to pay much for books. That’s the down-side.
The up-side is that since I don’t have to worry about cover, editing, or distribution, I have more time to write. My Indie friends work very hard getting their books ready for print. I admire that energy and commitment. But I’m also relieved I don’t have to do that for my books, since I’m awful at promotion. The other thing that has made the publishing process more difficult is the pirating. It’s rampant. I get notifications at least twice a week that one of my books is listed for free on a pirating website. I even saw that Texas Tall was up for free downloads, and it wasn’t even published yet! That’s a huge problem for both traditionally published authors and Indie authors. It’s theft, pure and simple, and it’s wrong.
As far as what parts of the writing process I do enjoy…it’s the writing, editing, and feedback from readers. That makes the hours at the computer worthwhile.
DC: Being from Texas, we can see why you write western historical romance. Have you tried writing other genres? Or is that something you have no need or want to even try your hand at?
KW: No, I’ve never ventured far from western historical, although in my novella, Miracle in New Hope, there is an element of the paranormal. Since my books are more character-driven than plot-driven, I doubt I would do well with the complicated plots in the suspense and mystery genres, although I had fun making a stab at it in “The Scent of Roses”, a short story in the anthology, Boots Under Her Bed. As far as creating another world in a paranormal—I don’t have enough imagination for that—nor am I contemporary enough to write a contemporary romance. But who knows? Since novellas are becoming so popular with readers who have limited time to read, I might try my hand at something different one of these days.
DC: Your new release, Texas Tall, is about two people looking at different futures because of their pasts and who fall in love due to where those pasts have brought them. How did Ty’s and Lottie’s story come about?
KW: I always start with the characters and their main conflicts. How would a young girl react when asked to do the unthinkable? What terrible event would drive an honorable young man to sign on with the Texas Rangers in order to exact revenge? From there I determine what would bring these two characters together, then pull them apart, and what would have to happen to bring them back to their HEA. Once I figure all that out, I start building the characters, layer by layer, adding conflicts as I go. In writing Lottie’s and Ty’s story, I had a chance to build a nice little Texas town, pull in two other love stories, a murder trial, and finish off with a tornado. Good times.
DC: Tell us about your most favorite fan letter you’ve received. Is there one on the other end of the spectrum you still remember to this day?
KW: I’ve been blessed with so many wonderful letters it would be difficult to pick a favorite. I was touched by one from another writer who was suffering hip issues, and who found comfort in reading about Elena’s bad hip in Pieces of Sky and Chasing the Sun. Another came from a woman who felt closer to her husband after reading Heartbreak Creek. (She didn’t offer details, but I’ve always wondered…) Then there was the shocking email I got from a man named Brady Wilkins, which is the name of the hero in Pieces of Sky. He wanted to know how I’d come by that name and if we’d ever met. I told him I made it up and never heard from him again, but it’s still odd to think there’s a real Brady Wilkins wandering around out there somewhere.
As far as a comment on the “other end of the spectrum,” the harshest didn’t come by letter, but in a comment on another website right after I learned I was a double RITA finalist for my first two books. The writer said I was so lacking in talent it was a wonder I’d won any awards. That hurt…until I won the RITA for one of those books. I laugh about it every time I look at that gorgeous gold RITA statue. I love karma, don’t you? But it also taught me not to take negative comments personally. Or to let my personal feelings enter into my own critiques. Not every book will appeal to every reader. Accept that and move on.
DC: Is there a story (or stories) just rolling around in your imagination that you’d like to get to but for some reason it stays in the background? Any chance one or more of them might see the light of day in the near future?
KW: I’m a writer, so there are tons of stories rolling around in my head. Most of them I discount because they would take so much research (medievals, time travel, paranormal, mystery). If I were younger, I might try anyway. But I’m very comfortable in western historical and that’s probably where I’ll stay…unless an idea for a great novella comes along. We’ll see.
DC: Texas Tall is your first standalone novel. Will you be writing more of those, or do you have another series lined up to share with readers?
KW: Actually, my editor wanted Texas Tall to be book one of a trilogy. But I was looking at two surgeries to have my knees replaced and knew I was in for a long recovery, so I decided not to commit to more than one book. Now that I’m recovered, I’m working on a proposal for a second book to follow Texas Tall, set twenty years after book one, and focusing on the children of the characters of the first book, as well as one of the unfinished love stores. Sort of an older couple and younger couple thing, brought together by letters from the past. We’ll see how it goes.
DC: My favorite Kaki Warner character(s) is Ash and his dog Tricks in Colorado Dawn, Book 2 in your Runaway Brides series. I had such fun with them. Do you have a favorite character over others from all your books, one who stands out just a bit more than most?
KW: Hank, of Open Country, book two in the Blood Rose trilogy, is very dear to me. First of all, he absolutely isn’t intimated or manipulated by his older brother, Brady Wilkins. Also he’s kind, highly intelligent and inventive, especially when dealing with his step-daughter, Penny (a blend of my adorable granddaughters). Plus he’s hot. What’s not to like about that? I also like Declan, the over-grown sheriff/rancher of Heartbreak Creek, and the way he dealt with his prissy Southern mail-order bride. And Ash, the blustering ex-soldier in Colorado Dawn. And the brilliant and loyal tycoon, Tait, in Bride of the High Country. And especially Thomas, the ultra-alpha Cheyenne dog soldier in Home by Morning. In fact, I like them all, including Ty Benton, the troubled ranger in Texas Tall. Each brings something to the party going on in my mind. And, of course, they’re hot. (These are romances, after all.)
DC: What do you do to relax or have fun, when those few moments of time crop up?
KW: Since my husband and I are retired, we have a lot of those moments. And since we live on 93 acres along the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, we spend a lot of time outside—hiking (now that I have new knees—Yay!), watching the wildlife (we’ve had visits from deer, raccoon, bear, a moose, numerous chipmunks, birds, a few rattlers, and last week an ermine). We also have an extensive flower garden that provides several relaxing spots to just sit and “be.” We’re truly blessed.
DC: You hear of authors taking trips to Scotland, Ireland, or some other country to do research for a book. With your books taking place on the early American frontier, have you visited any of the historic places here in the U.S. to do your research, i.e., the Oregon Trail, Gettysburg, places along that line?
KW: I’ve been lucky enough to spend time in every western state (and most of their parks and museums). And since I’ve raised horses, and ridden through these mountains, I think I’ve gotten a “feel” for the country, which adds authenticity to my books. I’m also old enough to remember how many of the “old-timers” thought and spoke, and how they lived. It’s a mindset that’s fast disappearing—that absolute self-reliance and connection to the land. It was a harsher, more dangerous, yet simpler way of life a century and a half ago, one that’s slowly disappearing under the weight of ever-changing technology. But as long as there are western historical writers, I don’t think interest in that period of our country’s history will disappear completely. At least, I hope not.
DC: What time period or genre do you prefer? Any favorites?
KW: When I’m not reading or writing about the West, I’m happily reading other romance genres… Scottish (like Karen Raney’s books), medievals (like Regan Walker’s books), Regencies (like those of Teresa Medeiros, Tessa Dare, Julia Quinn, Moriah Densley, and a host of other great writers.)
DC: Kaki, thank you so much for your time today!